What is a counterbalance forklift?

Material Handling Training Courses

How your workers can use a counterbalance forklift to help your company productive and efficient!

Most warehouses and large supermarkets will have many different types of forklifts. You will also often see lift trucks in aisles, construction sites and many other locations. Operators can use these lift trucks to move a wide range of loads and items.

Counterbalance forklift trucks are the most commonly used lift trucks, and can be seen in most places where heavy loads are moved.

Now, let’s look at counterbalance lifts in detail. 

What is a counterbalance forklift?

Counterbalance forklifts are among the most common powered industrial trucks used today. Many warehouses use counterbalance forklifts for cargo and heavy load related tasks, including moving products and managing inventory. 

A counterbalance lift truck can be used indoors and outdoors, but tends to perform best on smooth surfaces.  

What makes a counterbalance forklift unique?

Like most other lift trucks, a counterbalance forklift has a pair of forks in front of the vehicle, but, to ‘counterbalance’ a heavy front load, a counterbalance truck also carries significant weight at the rear. This way of loading promotes overall stability, even during transporting the goods.

Counterbalance forklifts are designed to remain stable with and without loads. Despite its unique design, counterbalance forklifts can still have accidents, in fact, uneven counterbalance lift load distribution is a leading cause of falling load accidents, causing damage to goods and injuries to employees.

When it comes to operating a counterbalance lift, safety is crucial, and with proper training, an operator can drive this type of lift without endangering others. 

How to drive a counterbalance forklift truck

A counterbalance forklift operates like a seesaw. The lift has a fulcrum (front axle) and two resistances: a counterweight on the back and a load on its forks.

With a counterbalance lift, the fulcrum serves as its central pivot point. The front axle promotes the balance between the lift’s counterweight and load.

A counterbalance lift’s counterweight must provide more force than the load. Otherwise, the load can be too much for the lift to handle and result in a tip-over.

Benefits of forklift certification for your employees

Providing counterbalance forklift training can be a win-win for your business and its workforce. It enables your company to teach its workers about counterbalance lift safety. That way, your business can limit the risk of lift accidents, injuries, and fatalities. At the same time, you can offer counterbalance lift training that ensures all of your workers can legally operate this type of truck. The result: your business can comply with PUWER requirements, and your employees are well-equipped to use a counterbalance lift and contribute to your company’s success. 

Consequences of not providing lift truck training

Failure to provide counterbalance forklift training can be costly to your business and its employees. 

Your business is required to provide any worker who uses a counterbalance lift with approved training. However, if your business ignores this PUWER requirement, it can receive fines and penalties. Even worse, your company can inadvertently cause forklift accidents, injuries, and fatalities. 

Remember, operating a counterbalance lift can be difficult, regardless of a driver’s experience. If a worker lacks sufficient training, he or she is ill-equipped to operate this machine safely. Yet, if the worker tries to carry a heavy load using a counterbalance lift, a tip-over can occur. This can result in severe damage to the lift. It can also put the lift operator and others at risk of serious injury or death.

counterbalance forklift training courses
Counterbalance forklift training courses at your workplace

The advantages of counterbalance forklifts

Lift a wide range of weights

Counterbalance forklifts are designed and engineered to safely lift a wide range of weights ranging from 1.8T up to 48T.

The larger the lift capacity of the forklift the larger the size of the unit as the in-built counterbalance must be large enough to offset the weight of the loads being picked up by the tynes and prevent the units from tipping over.

Different fuel types

Another advantage of counterbalance forklifts is there are a variety of fuel types available to power them.

Fuel types include:

  • LPG
  • Petrol
  • Diesel
  • Battery Electric

The different fuel types available allow the unit to be customised to a particular application. Diesel powered counterbalance forklift offers the necessary high power to lift and manoeuvre large heavy loads such as containers, and battery electric counterbalance forklifts are ideal for operating indoors where ventilation maybe a problem as they don’t emit any toxic emissions.

Increased Versatility with Added Attachments

Counterbalance forklifts add extra versatility to an operation as they can be fitted with a wide variety of attachments.

Attachments such as the examples below allow a counterbalance forklift to complete tasks it normally wouldn’t normally be able to complete thus increasing the units versatility.

  • Clamps such as bale or paper rolls allow counterbalance forklifts to safely pick-up and lift baled or irregular shaped loads including cotton, wool bales or rolls of paper that can’t be picked-up or lifted using standard tynes
  • Rotators and Bin Tippers allow counterbalance forklifts to pick-up, rotate and tip industrial bins safely and efficiently
  • Carpet Poles are an attachment that fits over a counterbalance forklifts standard tynes and allows for long lengths of carpet, textiles or materials to be wrapped around the central pole for easy and safe transport

Indoor and Outdoor Operation

Counterbalance forklifts can be fitted with a variety of different tyre options including non-marking, pneumatic, cushion and solid.

Depending on the application the best tyre option needs to be selected, for instance a forklift operating indoors in a warehouse may have non-marking tyres fitted so it doesn’t leave any marks on the warehouse floor during operations.

For counterbalance forklifts that operate outdoors pneumatic tyres may be fitted as they are heavy-duty, have deep treads in long lasting rubber that can withstand the harsher conditions of working outdoors across all surfaces.

counterbalance forklift training

Counterbalance Forklift Training FAQs

A counterbalance forklift should only be used by a trained and certified operator. Are your company’s counterbalance lift operators trained to the latest PUWER standards?

We can help any forklift operator earn a counterbalance forklift certificate – or your entire fleet, if required!

In addition to helping your workers become RTITB certified counterbalance lift operators, we want to teach you as much as possible about certification training. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) we get on counterbalance forklifts:

Q: Is counterbalance forklift training necessary?

A: The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) provide requirements for employers to ensure that any person that uses, supervises or manages the use of work equipment has to have received the relevant training. This includes any staff that are self-employed.

This includes the following:

  • The correct use of the machinery or equipment
  • Any risks that can occur
  • The precautions to take. 

Q: Can anyone earn counterbalance lift certification? 

A: Absolutely! Counterbalance lift certification training is designed for workers of all skill and experience levels. Anyone can enrol in certification training at their convenience and use it to become an OSHA-approved counterbalance lift operator. 

Q: How long does a counterbalance forklift license last? 

A: Once your driver has completed a the course, he or she receives a forklift certificate that remains valid for three years.

Q: What happens after three years? 

A: Once an operator’s license has lapsed, you can undertake forklift refresher training. You can provide our refresher training to any operator, at any time.

Q: How can I ensure that my entire team is PUWER-compliant? 

A: Our forklift truck instructor training allows an in-house employee to become a certified counterbalance forklift trainer. This type of training is ideal for shift supervisors and other experienced counterbalance lift operators.

How can we help?

For advice on choosing the best counterbalance forklift training for your employees, call our friendly customer service team on 01344 830015 or fill in a contact form and we will respond as soon as possible.


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